The Ecology of Humans (16-9) Language Sounds

Language Sounds

Music and language are intimately coupled. ~ American speech researcher Gavin Bidelman et al

Linguistics is the study of language. Phonology is the study of language sounds.

Hearing well demonstrates the interplay between genetic disposition and actualization from life’s experiences. One’s native tongue largely determines the ability to discriminate sounds.

The mishmash of English is auditory oatmeal. By contrast, Chinese is a songfest, with a rich array of nuances in pitches and bends. While all the diphthongs in English are falling, Mandarin has both rising and falling sequences.

Mora is a phonological unit regarding syllable weight, related to emphasis and timing. The Chinese language has a morae variety that far surpasses English.

Perfect pitch is being able to identify a note upon hearing it. Only 8% of native English speakers have perfect pitch, whereas 92% of native Mandarin speakers have perfect pitch.

Genetics establishes only the outliers of perfect or pathetic pitch (tone deafness). Generally, hearing pitch can be learned. Early childhood exposure to subtly tuned sounds enables greater discrimination ability.